Echiums, potatoes & lilies
Once past the year’s mid-point, the garden’s freshness usually begins to dry out in the full glare of July’s brilliant sunshine and hotter days. There is one plant we grow which rises particularly well to this occasion and that’s Echium pininana, also called the tree echium. Native to the Canary Islands and sometimes susceptible to our excessively cold and wet winter weather, their towering spires of rough, dark leaves and small blue flowers can reach over 3 metres high in their second or third year, and are about as popular with the bees as any flower around. Added to their majesty whilst in full effect, they remain as striking silvery edifices long into autumn. Once their structural purpose has been served, they can be taken down to make way for their offspring as they readily self-seed in abundance.
In the vegetable plot, the orderly rows of bright green potato tops have become an attractive mainstay. However, now that the flowers on the plants are opening its time to dig in and carefully lift the first and second early potato tubers that have been quietly multiplying beneath the ground since spring. It’s also time to begin picking courgettes before they get too big and become marrows, and this will also help encourage more fruits.
Over in our shaded area the tree canopy is brimming, keeping the sun from the fern fronds that are reaching their full extent. Two autumns ago we inter-planted some Martagon Lily bulbs, which disappointed us in their first year by failing to show through at all. Yet this year, having re-mulched the area generously with compost and bark, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by more than half of them coming up. Growing up to just over a metre high, their stems smothered in buds, they are providing some much welcome colour with their spotted dark pink or orange flowers turned back to make the exotic Turk’s cap by which they are commonly known.
July, and salad season is in full swing. Although tomatoes are yet to ripen here at the garden, let’s take a look at making a lovely little green salad. We’ve got lots of delicious lettuce leaves here at the moment; crispy Cos, flavoursome Lollo Rosso and soft buttery Salad Bowl, as well as mustardy oriental leaves, peppery rocket and super- hot wasabi rocket. As with all good eating, simplicity is key; just some great leaves, beautifully dressed. Chop or tear up some of the lettuce, add some of the stronger leaves according to taste and then dress. Remember, dressing a salad is like dressing yourself; you’re only trying to make the leaves as beautiful as possible.
That’s great as it is, although you could add a little of whatever’s to hand; tomatoes, cucumber, radish – perhaps some canned fish. Remember though, less is more; we’re here to celebrate the leaves.
And if you’ve been generous enough with the dressing, a hunk of crusty bread will mop up the juices perfectly!